David Haskel, a partner at Abacus IP in Phnom Penh, says that, in his view, AI has the potential to up-end the IP industry, and legal services more broadly.
“That is a long-term, gradual development, as AI improves and is adopted by firms (and clients). In the short term, there is quite a bit of marketing hype surrounding what’s available. Poorly implemented, machine learning produces misleading and worse than worthless results. For instance, in the trademark clearance search tools I have seen using AI, the results are just not usable. AI still has a way to go there,” he says.
The role of IP rights
With the Asia-Pacific region leading the world in technology advancements for many years, the development and ownership of new technology necessitate legal safeguards for the benefit of its creators. This results in IP rights continuing to be crucial to the development of technology in the Asia-Pacific region.
Kaushik adds that according to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) data, Asian patent offices received about 70 percent of all patent applications worldwide last year. China attempted to include advances in 26 sectors connected to intellectual property rights in its most recent Five-Year Plan.
“The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group, known as the Intellectual Property Rights Expert Group or IPEG, is in charge of implementing the TRIPS Agreement, or the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, of the World Trade Organization,” he says. “The group publishes regular reports on the evolution of intellectual property rights in the Asia-Pacific region. In one of its most recent papers, the team highlighted how Asian businesses had a large number of standard essential patents (SEPs) for cutting-edge technologies such as 5G, driverless vehicles and monitoring gadgets. Such SEPs enable a corporation to hold a patent on some critical technology utilized in a number of developments, allowing such companies to dictate how the technology is developed. Asian corporations have SEPs connected to the Internet of Things, which is essentially the future of technology, which will go a long way toward consolidating the Asia-Pacific region as a leader in the world’s intellectual property system.”
The Madrid System and other filings
De Guzman adds that intellectual property trends in the Asia-Pacific region, as always, would be something to watch out for. “China for one, is a constant top filer for IP globally and the next year would somehow expectedly see the same trend,” he says. “It is intriguing to note and observe though how regulations would revolve and change around the increasing concerns and complaints on bad faith filings especially for trademarks which allegedly originate from China.”
In the Philippines, certain developments are being anticipated like the upcoming system for registration of geographical indications. “The Philippines will soon be welcoming its own register of protected geographical indications, which is a welcome development, especially to provide a competitive advantage of various local and indigenous products,” he says. “It is also an affirmation of the Philippines’ commitment to its obligation as a member of the World Trade Organization to accord reciprocal rights and protection to geographical indications of other member states.”
He adds: “The amendment in the Philippines’ trademark rules are also in the works. The proposed rules would now allow for the registration of color marks, position marks, three-dimensional marks, hologram marks and motion marks.”
In Hong Kong, in addition to brands jumping on the bandwagon of registering trademarks for use in the virtual world and on NFTs, Li says that another development to be anticipated would notably be the implementation of the Madrid System, i.e., the international registration (IR) system for trademarks.
“While the IR does not currently apply to Hong Kong, the government is working towards its implementation in Hong Kong, to enable foreign companies to designate their IRs into Hong Kong,” she says. “Notably, however, Hong Kong’s status as a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) means that a Hong Kong IR applicant would be precluded from designating the PRC for their IRs, and vice versa.”
A bright future
Kaushik adds that in terms of intellectual property rights, the future seems bright. “There is a growing awareness among governments around the world of the importance of establishing uniform intellectual property laws that will encourage innovation and the development of new technology,” he says. “When AI is ubiquitous, intellectual property rights become paramount. Without the assurance of legal protection for their intellectual property, innovators would be dissuaded from developing groundbreaking new products.”
With the establishment of the Unified Patents Court, the European Union has begun implementing reforms to modernize patent examination and issuance.
“With this, a sizable portion of the world is moving toward a system that better protects intellectual property. In the United States, the International Trade Commission is expected to assume responsibility for IP matters, including both the issuance and enforcement of IP protections,” he says. “This would also establish a reliable system for verifying and protecting intellectual property. When it comes to the Asia-Pacific region, India has emerged as one of the leading players, and its government officials have become more passionate about protecting intellectual property. This demonstrates a global shift in legislation in favour of stronger IP protection mechanisms. If this trend maintains, a universally applicable IP protection system will sweep the globe alongside the arrival of AI.”